When the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers do battle on the gridiron on Sunday Night Football, everyone knows it will be as hard a hitting game that the NFL will see all year. While that makes for great viewing by all football fans, it also means the six referees on the field will have their hands on their yellow bean bags all game long, just waiting for the hit that they will determine to be too flagrant to overlook and out will come the penalty flag.
Steelers' linebaker James Harrison has already been fined well over $100,000 for his transgressions, and other players on both sides have contributed to the league's coffers throughout the season. This Sunday evening, on national television, no other game will get more scrutiny from the referees on the field as well as those watching in their homes and the league offices than this one will.
What pre-game direction has the league given to the refs assigned to this game and how will they handle what usually is as physical a contest as any in the league? Will those refs be under orders to make sure it doesn't get out of hand and how will that affect the players abilities to give their all on the field as opposed to purposely holding back to comply with the new rules?
Hopefully, the referees do not involve themselves in Sunday night's game too much, and they let the players put on what should be one of the best games with so much on the line. If the refs constantly throw the flag on every hard hit, it will take so much away from the game and turn the final result over to the guys in the zebra stripes rather than leave it to the players on the field. Neither team wants to see a victory "lessened" due to a penalty or even multiple penalties that have the losing team and its fanbase in an uproar over the unnecessary penalties called that swung the game in the opponent's favor or even worse, negated a great play.
The league will be under just as much scrutiny as the players and refs if this game is negatively affected by the amount of personal foul penalties that could be called in a battle of this magnitude. Both teams let it all out from the opening to the final whistle and fly about the field to confirm the notion of what is the best rivalry in the NFL right now and perhaps as good as any in professional sports.
The Ravens as well as the Steelers would prefer that the referees just let them play and equally allow both teams to settle the outcome on the field with their play and not because of a call that could change the outcome of the game. Here's hoping the refs get the message and stay out of the game and let the players play Sunday night.